Last month, the Ontario government announced a new Regional Immigration Pilot program to help businesses and employers in small and rural communities recruit and retain international talent. Recognizing the value that skilled immigrants can bring throughout our province is a win for everyone.

Three specific regions of Ontario were selected to participate in the pilot: Chatham-Kent, Cornwall, and Belleville/Quinte West. Like many localities of rural and northern Ontario, these communities experience skills and labour shortages and too many businesses are unable to fill jobs.

As part of the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP), the Region Immigration Pilot will not only provide rural businesses the human capital they need to thrive, but it will also act as an incentive for prospective immigrants with tremendous skills and education to apply for the program and be nominated by the province for permanent residence status with the Government of Canada. This new pilot is essentially another pathway for international talent to be streamlined in the settlement process, and to be meaningfully employed by filling gaps that are currently hurting the economic health and growth of various regions in the province.

We at TRIEC are pleased with the new initiative as it presents an opportunity for businesses outside of the Greater Toronto Area to fill talent gaps and in doing so, grow the economy. The province of Ontario attracts and receives more newcomers annually than any other province or territory. And most newcomers settle in the GTA – in fact, nearly 50% of city of Toronto is made up of immigrants. While many see Ontario as the center of Canada’s economic and political life, the concentration of newcomer talent in one localized area results in desperate need for skills and talents in smaller towns and municipalities like Thunder Bay, Timmins, and Sault Ste. Marie.

Economic Development Minister, Vic Fedeli, has been pushing for an expansion of OINP as his government understands that newcomers have skills and experiences to offer Canadian employers. To this end, he wrote a letter to Canada’s recently appointed Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister, Marco Mendicino, requesting that the number of immigrants accepted under the OINP program increase from 7,000 in 2019 to 13,300 in the next two years.

A collaborative effort by the federal and provincial governments, along with the recognition by businesses of the value that skilled newcomers bring to our province is a win for everyone. TRIEC looks forward to seeing the results of the pilot and welcome the efforts by the province to strengthen our economy by leveraging the full potential of newcomer talent.